Parents don’t have to agree to give their kid’s names and birth dates to Apple just to get a school issued iPad says privacy expert Matt Ehling. Apple’s data mining of student information came to light on Wednesday as a bi-partisan group of Minnesota lawmakers unveiled legislation to protect students private information from being used by corporations such as Apple for lucrative data mining.
At the news conference Ehling explained how an agreement the St. Paul Public Schools has made with Apple for leasing iPads allows the company to get the students’ names and birth dates and then track their behavior.
Ehling says even without a law change, the St. Paul Public Schools can avoid giving out that sensitive student data. He points to the Randolph Heights school that his child attends as an example. He and his wife refused to sign Apple’s iPad consent form as written. Instead Ehling worked with teachers and the Randolph Heights administration to come up with another plan.
According to Ehling, Randolph Heights School no longer requires students under the fifth grade to use their actual names or dates of birth to create Apple IDs — the mechanism that Apple uses to track students. Instead, teachers are allowed to create IDs for the students using “Advance Reader” (AR) testing numbers. That allows teachers to track who had the iPads and avoid giving the data to Apple.
The district’s consent form was also modified noting that parents did not consent to providing any personally identifiable information about their child to Apple or any third party vendors.
“These steps have been taken for two years now and they provide a model for how the district could modify its iPad Policy so as to avoid the compulsory sharing of personal student data with a private company,” wrote Ehling in a recent letter to the St. Paul School Board.
Ehling is urging the St. Paul School Board to change its iPad policy to protect student’s data and wants Minnesota to strengthen its laws to protect private student data.